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Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR Lens Review

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR Lens Review - Gary Wolstenholme reviews the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR lens.

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Category : Interchangeable Lenses
Product : Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR
Price : £1,000
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Handling and features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR

This telephoto zoom lens from Nikon is something Nikon users have been crying out for, for years. It covers the popular 70-200m range with a constant maximum aperture of f/4, which means this lens is considerably lighter weight than its f/2.8 equivalent. It also sports Nikon's latest Vibration Reduction technology, which promises sharp hand-held images at shutter speeds up to five stops slower than would be possible without. Nikon's Nano-Crystal coatings have also been applied to lens surfaces to help suppress flare and ghosting.

The current price at introduction is around £1140 though, which seems a little steep. We'll take a good look at this lens to determine if this lens is worth that amount of money.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR Handling and features

Weighing only 850g, this lens is relatively lightweight and compact, especially when compared to Nikon's f/2.8 70-200mm lens, which weighs almost twice as much. The lens barrel is constructed form high quality plastics and the lens mount is metal, with a rubber gasket to help prevent the ingress of dust and moisture into the camera. Unfortunately the lens itself is not weather sealed though. The lens balances well on the Nikon D700 used for testing and should feel right at home on even Nikon's more compact entry level bodies due to the light weight.

Auto focus is powered by a silent wave motor, and autofocus speeds are very fast. Manual adjustments can be applied at any time via the focusing ring. The wide focusing ring is smooth, and well damped, which makes applying manual adjustments a pleasure.

Closest focus distance is 100cm, and focusing is performed internally, so the 67mm filter thread does not rotate, which should make this lens ideal for use with graduated filters and polarisers. Although space has been provided for a tripod ring, it isn't supplied as standard with the lens. If you require one the RT-1 tripod collar ring is available, but it will set you back around £150.

The updated Vibration Reduction system this lens is equipped with promises sharp hand held shooting at shutter speeds up to five times slower than would be possible without the technology. So long as the system is given time to kick in properly and images are shot with care, hand-held shots at 1/6sec are quite possible at 200mm, which is around five stops slower than the usual rule of thumb would normally recommend. The system works well with Nikon's teleconverters also allowing sharp hand-held images at 1/13sec with a the 1.4x TC-14E II and 1/25 sec with the 1.7x TC-17E II.

Nikon AFS 70 200 VR

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR Performance

At 70mm, sharpness in the centre portion of the frame is outstanding from maximum aperture. Although the clarity towards the edges isn't up to the same level, it is still very good at this aperture and focal length. Stopping down the aperture gradually improves performance across the frame, with peak edge to edge sharpness being achieved at f/11 where sharpness is outstanding across the frame.

With the lens zoomed to 105mm, similar high levels of sharpness are achieved in the centre portion of the frame, but the clarity towards the edges falls to good levels towards the edges of the frame. Peak sharpness across the frame is again achieved at f/11.

Finally, at 200mm, sharpness in the centre portion of the frame remains excellent at maximum aperture and the clarity towards the edges of the frame approaches very good levels again. Peak sharpness across the frame is achieved between f/8 and f/11 for this focal length.

Resolution @ 70mm
Resolution @ 70mm
  Resolution @ 105mm
Resolution @ 105mm
Resolution @ 200mm
Resolution @ 200mm
 

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D700 using Imatest.

Levels of chromatic aberrations are extremely well controlled for a telephoto zoom lens, only just exceeding 0.25 pixel widths throughout most of the zoom range. At 105mm CA levels increase slightly, although this low level of fringing should be difficult to spot, even in very large prints, and harsh crops from the edges of the frame.

Chromatic aberration @ 70mm
Chromatic aberration @ 70mm
  Chromatic aberration @ 105mm
Chromatic aberration @ 105mm
Chromatic aberration @ 200mm
Chromatic aberration @ 200mm
 

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D700 using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners is fairly well controlled for a telephoto zoom lens. At 70mm and maximum aperture the corners are only 0.98stops darker than the image centre and at 200mm the corners are 1.38stops darker. Visually uniform illumination is achieved with the aperture stopped down to f/5.6 or beyond throughout the zoom range.

Imatest only managed to detect 0.149% barrel distortion at 70mm, which is a very mild amount of distortion and shouldn't cause any issues day-to-day. However, at 200mm Imatest detected 2.28% pincushion distortion, which is reaching the levels where it may become noticeable in normal images. If straight lines are paramount, you'll be glad to hear that the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame at both ends of the zoom range, which should make corrections in image editing software afterwards relatively straightforward to apply.

Thanks to Nikon's Nano-crystal coating, incidences of flare and ghosting are very rare indeed. Contrast holds up incredibly well, even when shooting into the light at maximum aperture. A deep circular hood comes supplied with the lens, which does a decent job of shading the lens from extraneous light that may cause issues.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR Sample Photos


Value for Money

With the price of this lens still hovering above the £1000 mark, it may seem like a lot of money to shell out for a lens with a maximum aperture of f/4. Still if you take the optical performance into consideration, this lens is probably just worth the money, especially if you're after similar performance to the f/2.8 equivalent, but without the weight. The f/2.8 equivalent is much more expensive being priced around £1530.

As the price is quite high, f/2.8 lenses from third party manufacturers may make good alternatives for many, so long as saving weight isn't an issue. Sigma's 70-200mm f/2.8 EX OS HSM lens is available at a bargain basement price of around £800, and for that you get a maximum aperture of f/2.8. Tamron's 70-200mm f/2.8 may still be out of many people's reach being priced at around £1380 though.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR Verdict

Those looking for similar optical performance to Nikon's top of the range 70-200mm, but without quite as much weight, or expense will love this new f/4 variant. It delivers sharp, contrasty images, focuses fast and isn't so heavy that you'd regret packing it in your camera bag.

Although the price may seem a little high at the moment, it is sure to drop in time, but even so, the current price is probably just about worth it.

 
  The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR performs well and is relatively compact and lightweight.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR Pros

Excellent sharpness
Fast silent focusing
Low CA
Low distortion
Relatively compact and lightweight (when compared to f/2.8 lenses)

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR Cons

Tripod collar not supplied as standard
Not weather sealed

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
OVERALL  

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR Specifications

ManufacturerNikon
General
Lens Mounts
  • Nikon AF-S DX G
  • Nikon F
Lens
Focal Length70mm - 200mm
Angle of ViewNo Data
Max Aperturef/4
Min Aperturef/32
Filter Size67mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingYes
Focusing
Min Focus100cm
StabilisedNo
Construction
Blades9
Elements20
Groups14
Box Contents
Box ContentsLens Hood HB-60, Lens Cap LF-4, Lens Case CL-1225, Lens Cap LC-67
Dimensions
Weight850g
Height178.5mm

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Comments


josa 2 25 Czech Republic
1 Jan 2013 2:33PM
You got lots of flecks in the last picture...

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theorderingone 10 2.4k United Kingdom
2 Jan 2013 2:57PM
I know. My sensor needs a clean (again). The images are posted unedited, except for conversion from Raw.
josa 2 25 Czech Republic
2 Jan 2013 6:47PM
Is it D600?
Pj0 2 United Kingdom
12 Jan 2013 2:02PM
exif on the last picture says a D700.

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